Kansas City, MO Tornado Rips Through City, May 1957
DEATH TOLL MOUNTS TO 35 AS TORNADO STRIKES KANSAS CITY.
GREATEST LOSS OF LIFE IS IN RUSKIN HEIGHTS SUBDIVISION.
Kansas City, May 21 (AP) -- The year's deadliest tornado thus far slashed across Kansas City's southern outskirts at sundown yesterday, leaving 35 dead and more than 200 injured in its 80-mile path.
Injured were still being dug out of wreckage as late as 7 a.m. (CST) today and the search for additional possible victims continued. Martial law was declared in the Ruskin Heights - Hickman Mills area to expedite relief work, stop looting and keep out sight-seers.
The death toll included 29 in the Kansas City suburbs, four at Spring Hill, Kan., and two at Ottawa, Kan., where the storm began its hop-skip scourge.
Greatest loss of life apparently was in a less than three-year-old shopping center at the mushrooming Ruskin Heights sub-division. Many of the commuters and their families were doing their customary shopping in the center's 16 shops when the twister struck in full blast.
The center serves not only the sub-division but nearby Hickman Mills and several communities. Because the dead and dying were rushed to half a dozen hospital and when identified, listed only by their home addresses, it was impossible to pinpoint where each victim cowered when he was struck down.
After smashing its way through this area, the storm veered north-east around the eastern extremities of Kansas City and dissipated itself in the vicinity of Liberty, an historic county seat about 20 miles northeast of Kansas City. It skipped past Independence, home of former President Harry S. Truman.
Although the loss of life made this the most deadly storm the nation has experienced since 22 were killed at Silverton, Tex., on May 15, the casualty lists were kept low by the advance warnings given repeatedly by radio and television that a severe blow was to be expected.
The first warning of storm conditions was issued by the U.S. Weather Bureau early in the afternoon, Kansas City was pinpointed as a possible target about 6 p.m. and broadcasts were given almost continuously as the weather bureau radar picked up funnel after funnel, including the one that struck Ruskin Heights.
Follow Safety Rules.
Scores of those rescued from the basements and other demolished homes told rescuers they had taken shelter and followed the safety precautions heard on the broadcasts and telecasts.
At least 156 persons were in hospitals today and scores of others were nursing wounds and hurts which did not require such attention.
Rescue work was launched almost immediately by peace officers, the National Guard, the Army and the Air Force, along with Civilian Defense agencies and the Red Cross.
An aerial inspection of the suburban area today showed the storm cut a path some 300 yards wide straight through Ruskin Heights, a collection of homes in the $10,000 to $15,000 bracket. Everything in the primary area appeared leveled with damage extending on a diminished scale on each side of the area. An extimated 100 homes over a six to eight block path were demolished and hundreds of others suffered varying degrees of damage.
Communications were hampered by disruption of telephone services. Southwestern Bell Telephone Co. reported 7,000 phones out of service.
Fifty In One Basement.
Most of the homes had no basement and householders who had such refuges, opened them to neighbors. One such was BILL BEAVER. To his home, ARTHUR BUCHANAN rushed with his wife and four children.
"At least 50 of us were in the basement, laying on top of one another three or four deep," BUCHANAN reported. The roof of the house blew away, but all in the basement were unhurt.
A slight calm preceded the real blow and lured some people to disaster.
E. F. NOLAND said he thought the sky was clearing "so we decided to do some shopping."
The NOLANDS and their daughter KAREN SUE, went to the big supermarket ( A & P) in the shopping center and were just beginning to load their pushbasket when "someone yelled 'everyone get to the back of the store.'"
NOLAND said 35 or 40 persons were huddled together when the store's walls tumbled down on them. He and his daughter escaped with minor hurts. His wife's back was broken and she is in a serious condition.
Clanking bulldozers and cranes moved into the disaster area to complete the job of clearing up the rubble. Disaster workers moved to find accommodations for all who were left homeless and authorities kept a close control over all movements of persons in and out of the area.
Chillicothe Constitution Tribune Missouri 1957-05-21
Fatalities In the Kansas City (Ruskin Heights) Tornado of 5-20-1957
AMMA MARSH, Ottawa, Kan.
JAMES MARSH, Ottawa, Kan.
ISAM DAVIS, Spring Hill, Kan.
BARBARA DAVIS, Spring Hill, Kan.
PAMELA DAVIS, 6, Spring Hill, Kan.
TAMARA DAVIS, 5, Spring Hill, Kan.
LOWELL ATKINSON, 50, Martin City, Mo.
MARGARET SMITH, 24, Martin City, Mo.
BESSIE SMITH, 49, Grandview, Mo.
JOSEPH VINCHIER, 75, Grandview, Mo.
RANDALL McGILL, 3 1/2, Grandview, Mo.
EDWARD HENTON, Grandview, Mo.
The Following are from Hickman Mills or Ruskin Heights, Mo.
LINDA SUE STEWART, 6 months.
GOLDIE TAYLOR, 39.
CAROLYN KAY TAYLOR, 3.
CORNELIA DAVIS, 24.
KATHERINE SUE DAVIS, 7.
JOHN HOWER, 10.
LENA RUCKER, 35.
HAROLD LEOPOLD, JR., 11.
ROBERT YOST, JR., 9.
DIANE BOYD ROSSI, 7.
HESTER TIMM, 39.
DENISE WOODLING, 3.
Please visit the Riskin Heights Tornado Memorial Site. It is a beautiful site, very informative and well done. Visit especially if you were in the vicinity of this terrible storm. www.ruskinheightstornado.org